By Alex O’Hara
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is to step down as head of the Anglican Church at the end of the year meaning his visit to New Zealand in November will be his last major international duty.
Mr Williams is one of the world's most influential religious leaders and head of one of the world's most modern churches, but after a decade in charge the Archbishop of Canterbury is set to resign.
“I think that it is a job of immense demands and I would hope that my successor has the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros," says Archbishop Williams.
And both those traits will be needed to keep a divided church together.
“He’s been fighting on one hand to keep the international Anglican community together – keeping both sides within the Church of England together when no-one really wants to talk,” says Colin Blakely of the Church of England newspaper.
And those issues nobody wants to talk about, gay rights and allowing women bishops, are issues that are just as relevant and contentious in New Zealand as in England.
“I think it’s everywhere across the communion,” says Bishop Victoria Matthews. “We’re at a point where two things are happening: one, there is instant communication so the world knows when you have a thought but then secondly, there is a culture difference as great as there’s ever been.”
And after working alongside the Archbishop, she says he found dealing with these issues hard.
“He’s a man that feels deeply. He’s deeply, deeply prayerful and never speaks other than that being out of his life of prayer. And he has never seen people want to walk out of our church,” says Bishop Matthews.
But before Archbishop Williams walks out of his role he will be making one last big international trip - here to New Zealand.
“He’ll be coming first of all to Auckland for the annual consultative council but he will be coming for a weekend in the middle of that trip to Christchurch because he has journeyed with us every step of the way since that first September earthquake,” says Bishop Matthews.
In the meantime the search is on for the Archbishop's successor who will no doubt face some mighty and enduring challenges.
source: newshub archive